Tuesday, December 1

Remembering Selena: The Legacy of a Murdered Star | Pop and rock

Luis Miguel Ramírez still remembers where he was when he learned that Selena Quintanilla, the biggest star of the Tejano music scene, had been shot and killed at age 23.

“I was six years old and sitting on the bus when my brother ran up and said, ‘Selena died! They shot him in the back! ‘”Says the 32-year-old singer of Latin alternative band Son de Rey. “When I got home, my dad was crying. A few months ago he told me that the reason was that he couldn’t bear to feel what the Quintanilla family was going through while he was thinking about how to raise his five young children. The following months we spent mourning this tragedy that made no sense.

The reaction of the Ramírez family was not unique. Selena, like Beyoncé and Madonna, is always known by her first name. At the time of her death at the hands of Yolanda Saldívar, her recently fired fan club manager, she was the celebrated Reina del Tejano, a mix of folk and pop music that originated on the Texas border and draws inspiration from both Mexico and in United States. He had recently performed in front of 66,000 people at the Houston Astrodome in the US, a stadium record. The year before, she had become the first woman in Tejano music to win a Grammy. He was expected to become a global superstar. Instead, it has been dead for 25 years.

Saldívar had been accused by the Quintanilla family of running the fan club as a fraud scheme and embezzling money from him and the singer’s popular fashion boutiques, Selena Etc. She was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to chain. Life with the possibility of parole. in 2025, 30 years after the singer’s death.

Tex-Mex singer Selena performing in concert in 1995, a month before she was shot dead.
Tex-Mex singer Selena performing in concert in 1995, a month before she was shot dead. Photograph: Arlene Richie / Media Sources / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

In the years since the murder, Selena’s legacy has only continued to grow.

Next month see the arrival on Netflix of Selena: the series, focusing on the singer’s early life. Last year, a concert series titled Selena for Sanctuary was hosted by music manager Doris Muñoz, herself a huge fan of Selena.

A 2016 MAC makeup collection inspired by the singer, known for her sassy bright red lips, sold out in minutes, as did a second collection last April. Jennifer Lopez, who played Selena in a 1997 biopic, posted a tribute on Instagram on the 25th anniversary of her death asking her followers to share their own feelings about the star.

When Selena’s star was posthumously featured on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017 attracted a record 4,500 fans and vivid murals continue to adorn his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. Named actress and singer Selena Gomez has spoken of the emotional connection she feels to her namesake and celebrities from Khloé Kardashian to Demi Lovato have spoken of their love.

Selena’s stage style, consisting mostly of sparkly jumpsuits, jeweled caps and bras, and of course that bright red lipstick, is regularly recreated by ardent fans. Rapper Cardi B described herself as “Selena’s cheat” in the 2018 song Motor sport explaining: “She is an alter ego that everyone would want to be and I want the world to know how much I love her.”

Wendy Rojas, a Chicago-based Spanish teacher, agrees. “I loved her music, but what meant the most to me was that a girl who looked like me could be a superstar, especially in America,” he says. “I was five years old when I first heard his music, but even at that young age I realized that being white and American was more beautiful than dark and Mexican. Selena changed that. She gave me hope. When he died, it was like losing a family member ”.

The feeling that Selena’s death was more than a terrible tragedy rings particularly true for anyone who spent time in Texas after her murder.

My first job in journalism, at 23, was as a junior sports reporter at the Houston Chronicle. It was a year after his death, and the city was still in mourning. My closest friends were Mexican American and spoke of Selena as a beloved sister.

I can remember bars covered with pictures of her, T-shirts printed with her image that my friends wore, and a memorable night at a Texas club where candles and pictures of saints filled the room and the only music played was Selena’s. Lively and approachable, it felt like the soundtrack of a thousand nights getting ready with your closest friends. But its appeal had spread throughout the United States.

“What people forget is that a Texan singer was still very rare in the 1990s,” says Esmeralda Cordea, an office manager in Brooklyn. “It was still a predominantly male industry and here was this singer who looked like us, spoke like us and was making a big impact. She had a strict upbringing, which was very easy to identify, and she made music that crossed the generations: my mom and I used to dance together in the kitchen to her songs. When she died, it felt a bit like our dreams had died with her. “

There was also another reason that Selena spoke with young Mexican Americans from Texas in particular. Like many of them, she had not learned Spanish as a child, but rather spoke a mix of Spanish and English slang known as Spanglish. He would later embrace his heritage and the internet is full of clips of his tentatively proven phrases. “I didn’t have the opportunity to learn Spanish as a child, but … it’s never too late to get in touch with your roots,” she told an interviewer in Mexico in 1994.

That struggle when you switch between two languages ​​and cultures, accused of not belonging to either of the two, is one with which many Latinx people in the United States identify: last year, the admission on Twitter of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez politician that he was struggling to be fluent in Spanish attracted many supportive comments. .

Young mourners outside Selena's home in Texas the day after her death in April 1995.
Young mourners outside Selena’s home in Texas the day after her death in April 1995. Photograph: David J Phillip / AP

“Selena is one of the reasons why I decided to perfect my Spanish and become a teacher,” Ramírez says of her day job. “I use their example to teach my students that it is okay to learn about their roots and their language later in life, even if it is not spoken at home.”

It’s also no wonder, he says, that the troubled Latinx community, largely ignored by the two major American political parties until they need votes, has found Selena an image to celebrate. “When our future former commander in chief labels us as rapists and criminals, a figure like Selena allows us to find our own love. She shows people that the Latinx community in the United States is a force to be reckoned with and that we are here to stay. “

Similar thinking prompted the Selena for Sanctuary concerts, which came about because Muñoz wanted to respond to the Trump administration’s toxic immigration policies, including separating families, placing children in cages and increasing raids by ICE. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] on those who suspect they are undocumented. “In the spring of 2017 we were adjusting to the new administration and all the fearful rhetoric that was used to attack the title of Sanctuary of our city,” explains Muñoz. “The first concerts were in Los Angeles [and set up] raise funds for my parents [who were undocumented] and full of friends, but we got so much support that we were able to help immigrant rights nonprofits from coast to coast. “

The decision to use Selena, who is not particularly political, as a figurehead, arose because “Selena is a universal language of joy. Her crossover success paved a way for our community to prosper … She allowed us to accept ourselves for who we are, [the fact that we are] neither from here nor there. “

Mariel Guerrieri Valinotti, a Bronx-based dental hygienist, agrees: “She continues to be a symbol of pride for Mexicans in the United States, not only because of her success but because her life was taken in a very… unfair way.” said. “People are still angry about it, in the same way that they are angry about the immigration laws.”

It is also the case that in death Selena has become an image on which ideas can be projected. For Rojas, it is a symbol of “empowering” that shows young Latinas that they too can become stars; For Ramírez it has become “a symbol of Latino identity within the US … having taught us that instead of assimilating European ideals of beauty, we can bring our culture to the mainstream of the United States and can be loved and accepted “.

Ultimately, though, its ongoing appeal comes down to one thing: that hummed, joy-filled music: “After 10 years of playing in and around Texas, I can confidently say that nothing moves a crowd better than Selena’s music, ”says Ramírez.

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